The Human Milk Bank located at the South West Acute Hospital, Enniskillen is the only one of its kind on the island of Ireland. With the assistance of the Cú Chulainn Blood Bikes, a voluntary group of bikers who transport the specimens, the SWAH Human Milk Bank can distribute donated breast milk to help babies across Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The Cú Chulainn Blood Bikes, who are based in Co. Monaghan, have been in operation for about three and a half years and currently have around 15 volunteers. They started delivering the donated human milk from SWAH over a year and a half ago.

Director and chairman of the Cú Chulainn Blood Bikes Derek Duffy said: “We do deliveries every weekend but we’re on call 24/7 so we could get a call out for emergency milk that would say have to go to premature twins that were born in the Royal, so we’re always on call for that.”

He added: “Normally on a Saturday we collect from donors and deliver it to the Republic, then on a Sunday we do the same, we go across Northern Ireland.”

Cú Chulainn Blood Bikes deliver the donated human milk to various hospitals across Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, linking up with other Blood Bike groups to deliver to hospitals in Cork or Galway.

“You’re talking Letterkenny Hospital, Altnagelvin, Antrim Area Hospital, Craigavon, Newry, The Royal, the Ulster, so right across Northern Ireland and then another region we operate in as well is Drogheda and Cavan,” explained Derek.

He continued: “Then what we do is we link up with the other Blood Bike groups in Ireland. Say something that had to go to Cork or Galway, we would link up with that other Blood Bike, we would meet the other biker on the road and hand it over and they would continue the run on. So we have a network with the other seven Blood Bike groups, we are partnered and that network covers the whole country.”

“We’re also a member of the Native Association of Blood Bikes (NABBS), they are based in the UK so between Ireland and the UK there is about 29 Blood Bike groups under the same umbrella. “If we wanted to move anything between the two countries, we will actually link up with each other as well,” Derek added.

When asked why he decided to start Cú Chulainn Blood Bikes, Derek said: “The reason why I got involved was I was looking after my father, he had cancer at the time and he passed, so it was a case that I’d seen the Blood Bikes going in and out of the hospital, I wanted to help and I had some time on my hands so I got involved in it and I ended up starting my own group.” Noting that “anybody can get involved” in the charity, Derek continued: “The riders, we expect them to be over 25 years of age and have at least two years of riding experience for the motorbikes but after that, the organisation is like any other organisation, we need people to do the bookkeeping for us and be members of the committee and help us fundraise as well.” Due to the growing demand for donated human breast milk, the charity now use a jeep alongside the motorbikes to transport the specimens.

“We also have a jeep that we had to purchase because we have vast amounts of milk that is moving now, whereas in the beginning it was a small amount,” said Derek. However, he added that the motorbikes are more convenient as they are cheaper to run.

“That’s the huge bonus plus when you are in a city or a large town you can filter through the traffic so you can get through the traffic a lot quicker than cars, you could be stuck in traffic for hours going through the city at times, whereas motorbikes can filter up through.”

Liz Bailie, co-ordinator of the Western Health and Social Care Trust Milk Bank expressed her gratitude to the voluntary charity Blood Bikers: “The distribution of the milk would not be possible without transport help from Blood Bikers charities who assist with the transportation of milk to neonatal units in the Republic of Ireland and we are incredibly grateful for their ongoing support to the Human Milk Bank.”

Explaining the importance of human milk for premature babies, Liz said: “Human milk contains substances that cannot be synthesised, which help the babies fight viruses and bacteria.

“It has unique fats that help the immature brain, eye and nervous system develop better for improved intellect and sight, but probably most important for the premature baby it helps to protect the immature gut from Necrotizing Entero Colitis (NEC), a life threatening condition where the gut rupture. Breast milk also helps protect babies from pneumonia and septicaemia.”

“We are very grateful to all the mums who donate milk to the unit and there is always the need to recruit new donors,” she added.

If you would like to find out more about the Milk Bank and becoming a donor contact the Milk Bank on Tel: (028) 6862 8333 or email